Monday Mash-Up #009 Library Day

Library day!

I always look forward to visiting my local libraries.  I have fond memories of hanging out at the Bellingham library as a kid, enjoying not only the vast array of books but also the puppet shows, crafts, and storytimes.  Our local Timberland library system (several branches linked together in a three county area) is a favorite stop for my son as well, his interests leaning more towards the DVD selections and Garfield comics, where I love to browse just to see what catches my attention.    Even though I have literally hundreds of unread books in my personal reading stash I always wind up with an armload of titles, ranging from cookbooks to the latest Stephen King.  I came home with ten, my limit, and these were the three I finished this past week:

 

The Sky Manifest by Brian Panhuyzen  —  5 out of 5 stars!!!  I absolutely loved this book!  This title just jumped out at me from the library shelves and I’m glad I decided to add “just one more” to my check-out pile.  It’s the story of Nathan, who lost his wife and child and seemingly his reason for living.  As he travels across Canada in an attempt to flee from his tragedies, he encounters several characters who help him keep his resolve to “keep moving.”  I’ll admit it took me a bit to get into this one, as I agree with other reviewers that the author probably had a thesaurus open throughout the entire writing process.  However, once I got into the stylistic prose I was hooked.  Beautiful read and highly recommended.

Sugar and Iced by Jenn McKinlay —  3 out of 5 stars.  I enjoy a good “cozy” mystery.  Since I’ve gone through my stash of Diane Mott Davidson and Joanne Fluke titles I thought I’d try out this new-to-me author I spotted on goodreads.  Sugar and Iced is actually the 6th book in McKinlay’s Cupcake Bakery series and is a fun, quick read.  While I probably could have benefited from reading the first books, I had no problem getting into the story or figuring out the characters and their relationships.  A good book for a rainy afternoon.

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen  —  2 out of 5 stars.  Why, why, why do I keep picking up chick-lit thrillers?!?!  Perhaps it’s the promise of spine-chilling psychological drama, or the idea of unseen plot  twists and turns.  Or, maybe, I’m just a masochist who feels the need to read unoriginal stories filled with lackluster writing and unlikable characters (and let’s not forget a plot “twist” that can be seen from the beginning but needs another 300+ pages to finally arrive).  This one wasn’t completely horrible, it actually started out pretty good.  But I couldn’t even make it to the 1/3 mark before it started to irritate me, which made the rest of the book a chore.

 

Happy Reading and remember to support your local library!!

Monday Mash-Up #008 Spring is almost here!

It’s already the first week of March!  And after a wacky and weird February, I can honestly say I am sooooo ready for spring!

This month usually finds me starting some much needed spring cleaning, as well as celebrating St. Patrick’s Day and eagerly awaiting the annual AAUW (American Association of University Women) used book sale at the end of the month.  There may still be a lot of snow on the ground but that doesn’t keep me from poring over seed and flower catalogs, imagining beautiful flower containers and a bountiful vegetable garden…..I still haven’t fulfilled those goals but hey, this could be the year!  😀

An interesting variety of books this past week:

 

The Children’s Book by A. S. Byatt —  2 out of 5 stars.  It seemed like I was reading this book for months, and I kept wondering if the author was trying to create some sort of world record for the number of characters in a totally boring story.  Byatt’s writing style is lyrical at times, but her storytelling ability left me wanting a nap after reading 20 pages ( and with a 879-page tome, you understand how it took me seemingly forever to get through this one).  It wasn’t completely terrible, when it was good it was very good.  There was just too much blah between the bearable.

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon —  3 1/2 out of 5 stars.  Overall I liked this one.  The chapters from Sara’s journals and her husband’s point of view seemed to flow better and tell a more compelling story compared to the modern day chapters from Ruthie and Katherine, which kept this story under 4 stars for me.

Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton —  4 out of 5 stars.  The true story of an American Special Forces team who set down in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan to fight the Taliban alongside the Northern Alliance.  Very interesting, a definite must for your history shelf.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King —  4 out of 5 stars.  The sequel to The Shining, however this could easily be read as a stand-alone thriller.  As a longtime fan of King, it’s interesting to see how his writing has changed over the years.  While he keeps the chills and thrills coming, there is also an added level of introspection and maturity in his newer works, and this one is no exception.  There were a couple of twists towards the end that I didn’t think really fit into the story, but otherwise another solid hit from the master of horror.

And so we start another week.  I’m heading to the library tomorrow, never know what I may find!  Until next week, Happy Reading!

Monday Mash-Up #007

Things have been pretty quiet around here over the past week.  Still surrounded by a blanket of white, waiting patiently for signs of spring.  On the plus side, my reading slump seems to have disappeared!  Since last time:

 

Ten Big Ones by Janet Evanovich—  3 out of 5 stars.  This series starring Stephanie Plum, inept New Jersey bounty hunter, is always a fun, quick read.  While predictable and often annoying (“Do I want Ranger or Morelli?  Why am I getting fat when I live off doughnuts and fast food?  So unfair!!”), sidekicks Lula and Grandma Mazur make these books more entertaining than they should be.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn—  4 out of 5 stars.   Yes, I am the only person left in the modern world who has not read Flynn’s Gone Girl, let alone any of her other fiction.  Well, that came to an end this past week, and I must say I am impressed.  I tend to shy away from what I consider “Chick-Lit Thrillers” (you know the ones, Ware, Hawkins, Slaughter, the list goes on) simply because the ones I’ve read tend to be over-rated and annoying as hell.  What made this one better than the others?  I have no idea.  It had the same unlikable main character, the same over-done family drama ,  the same unsatisfying ending, but for some reason it worked for me.  Of course, I’ve been stuck in my house for the past couple of weeks due to snow so perhaps cabin fever has messed with my brain!

 

Granta #122:  Betrayal—  4 out of 5 stars.  I so want to subscribe to this quarterly publication!  I found this 247 page ” issue” at the library and I am hooked on the  superb variety of short fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie—  4 out of 5 stars.  As a fan of Alexie, I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to finally read his first short story collection.  All the stories are connected, yet easily stand alone.  Alexie’s stories are a blend of sadness, despair, violence, and humor, and I recommend this volume as the perfect introduction to his work.  Quick note:  my 20th anniversary edition included two stories that were not part  of the original publication.  I felt they were like the third wheel on a date, not quite fitting in with the rest.  While they were good on their own, I thought they could have been left out, perhaps added to one of his other collections.

Days By Moonlight by Andre Alexis—  ???  This was my January giveaway win from LIbrarything’s Early Reviewers and I’m having a hard time figuring out how to rate, let alone review, it!  Stay tuned, review coming soon!

And so we wrap up February.  Please feel free to leave suggestions for future posts or book recommendations, my life is pretty quiet right now!!   Until next week, Happy Reading!

 

 

 

 

Monday Mash-Up #006

Ah, winter.  Mother Nature’s gift that keeps on giving, whether we like it or not!  And this was pretty much how I was feeling last Tuesday and Wednesday…..

While in hibernation mode this past week, I found myself catching up on some television shows.  Anyone else watching I Am the Night?  Great series.  My guilty pleasure has been The Masked Singer……I even had a couple of correct guesses!

I’ve been a bit restless with my reading, finding it difficult to focus on any of the ones I’ve started.  I did finish up a few:

San Diego Noir — 3 out of 5 stars.   Another title in the Akashic Noir series, one of my favorite series going.  This one started out strong, but about halfway through I found the stories becoming a bit lackluster.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe — 3 out of 5 stars.  A classic that I had on my 2019 to-read list.  Overall, yeah, it was good and I understand why this is on many reading lists.  It just didn’t grab me like I thought it would.  I do think I should reread it when I’m more focused, as I may not have given it the chance it deserves.

Stalking the Dragon by Mike Resnick — 4 out of 5 stars!  This was a fun romp through an alternate Manhattan, complete with a miniature dragon named Fluffy, a living wax museum, zombie bodyguards, and a sassy cell phone (yes, you read that correctly).  Added bonus:  it takes place on Valentine’s Day, perfect reading for the 14th!

Have a great week, and, as always, Happy Reading!

 

 

 

 

Review– Among the Lost

4 out of 5 stars

There are times when I finish a book and wonder what the hell I just read—was it truly brilliant or merely crap adorned with random acts of brilliancy?

In the case of Among the Lost by Emiliano Monge, I can honestly say I’m not sure, but I liked it.

The stark narrative involves human trafficking and illegal immigration, a hot-button issue nowadays.  Among the Lost does not go into the politics, rather it goes to the underbelly, the reality that mainstream media usually doesn’t acknowledge.  There are those wishing for a better life and willing to pay, only to find out their life is payment.  There are the traffickers and their “employees” and a sadistic priest as well.  Strangely enough, there is also a love story between two of those who “survived” and now find themselves wanting the same freedom that those they kidnap and trade wanted as well.

Surreal, disturbing, and dark.     And I totally recommend.

Thank you to librarything Early Reviewers giveaways and Scribe Publications for an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

 

 

Monday Mash-Up #005

Almost didn’t get this posted today due to this:

   

Nearly two feet of snow in my little corner of the Pacific Northwest!  It had the internet satellite covered and I really didn’t want to climb up on the roof to clear it out!

My outdoor cat, Mister Sissy, always seems to enjoy the snow, more than my dogs do!

 

I also think Mister Sissy had more fun in the snow today than I did reading a few of my book choices this past week!

What I finished this past week:

In the Mouth of the Dragon by Myriam Millan— 2 out of 5 stars.  This sounded promising and started out pretty good, but by page 150 I was beginning to get bored, by page 250 I was getting annoyed, and by page 350 I was wondering how the hell this could go on for yet another 100+ pages!  Not recommended.

Bitter Bronx by Jerome Charyn—  2 out of 5 stars.  A collection of short stories based in the Bronx, New York City.  The last couple of stories were pretty good but the rest just didn’t work for me (lack of substance being the main reason).

Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas—  3 out of 5 stars.  I went into this one thinking is was about Japanese internment camps during WWII, but this is more about the various characters in a small town that just happens to have one of these camps.  Not bad but pretty slow going.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller—  3 1/2 out of 5 stars.  I enjoyed this one more than I thought I would, even needed a tissue or two towards the end.  Miller has a gift for prose but at times it just seemed overdone, leading to me putting it aside for a day or two.

Among the Lost by Emiliano Monge—   4 out of 5 stars!  A full review is coming soon for my latest giveaway win.

And since the snow is starting up again, I will say goodbye for now before the internet goes out.  Have a great week and Happy Reading!

Monday Mash-Up #004

Well, it took awhile, but we finally got our first snow here in my little corner of the Pacific Northwest.  And what better way to spend a snowy afternoon than curled up with a mug of tea and a great book!

This past week’s reading was a bit of a mixed bag:

The Battlemage by Taran Matharu— 4 out of 5 stars.  A great finish to a great trilogy!

Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin— 4 out of 5 stars.  The author’s own autism gives her a unique perspective on how animals perceive things.

Buddha Baby by Kim Wing Keltner—  2 out of 5 stars.  There are reasons why I don’t read a lot of “chick lit” and this book reminded me of all of them.  It wasn’t completely terrible, just not my thing.

The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko by Scott Stambach—  2 out of 5 stars.  This had the potential to be a good story, but the non-stop bantering about peeing, vomiting, and the narrator’s twice-daily masturbation habit quickly turned annoying as hell.  I just about quit reading when Ivan was more upset about not feeling like masturbating than he was about his “girlfriend’s” terminal illness.  There were enough good moments to keep this from being a 1 star read but not enough for me to recommend it to anyone.

A Stark and Wormy Knight by Tad Williams—  3 out of 5 stars.  A mixed bag of short stories with some falling flat and some worthwhile reads.  I think Williams is much better with full-length novels and I’ll stick to those in the future.

In Search of Hope by Mariane Pearl—  5 out of 5 stars!!!  Mariane Pearl’s husband, journalist Daniel Pearl, was brutally murdered by Islamic extremists in 2002.  Instead of retreating from the world, she set out to find hope in some of the most tragic and hostile conditions.  This is a beautiful book with pictures from her travels around the globe, meeting with seemingly ordinary women who have found the strength and courage to fight against impossible odds.  Highly recommend!!

 

The snow is still falling and the wind is picking up; time for me to brew that tea and decide what world I want to escape to.

Happy Reading!

Monday Mash-Up #003

I can’t believe January is almost over!  While most of my New Year’s resolutions have been abandoned (as usual!!) at least I’ve been keeping up with my reading!

I was able to finish up a few books this past week:

Valiant— 4 out of 5 stars.  I was pleasantly surprised by this YA fantasy, will definitely be checking out more of Holly Black’s work!

On the other hand…..

The Dinosaur Lords— 2 1/2 stars out of 5.  Very disappointing.  The battle scenes were well-written but the rest was slow-moving and booooring!  I’ve been told the rest of the trilogy gets better but I’m not going to waste my time.  On the plus side, the artwork by Richard Anderson is fantastic!

Naked–4 out of 5 stars.  A great combination of humor and pathos.

The Orphan’s Tale—  4 out of 5 stars.  Beautifully written.  There were a few times the melodrama went a bit overboard but overall a great read.

Food and the City–3 1/2 stars out of 5.  I wrote a full review of this one on January 26, make sure to check it out!

 

Once again I have several books going at one time, I just couldn’t get settled into any particular one.

Animals in Translation—  An interesting look at animal behavior as seen through the eyes of an autistic woman.

Buddha Baby—  I don’t read a lot of “chick lit” but I thought this one sounded funny.

Among the Lost—  My latest giveaway win arrived a few days ago and I couldn’t wait to start it!

The Battlemage—  Book three in the YA fantasy series.  More demons, yay!!

A Stark and Wormy Knight—  A collection of short fantasy stories.

 

Have a fantastic week, and Happy Reading!

Review–Food and the City by Ina Yalof

3 1/2 stars out of 5

 

When it comes to food culture, I would like to think I know my way around.  I worked in the restaurant industry for nearly 20 years, from fine dining to busy coffee shops.  Most of that time was spent as a server but I also did my share of mixing cocktails, bussing tables, washing dishes, prepping food, and (on a few occasions I would like to forget) cooking breakfast and lunch.

The late Anthony Bourdain is still my hero.  The Food Network Channel is my go-to television choice.  And I love reading about the hard living behind the scenes, of the struggles a chef had before becoming a chef.

I think that’s what missing from Food in the City…..the darker realities behind the successes.  All of the stories show that the adage “work hard and you will succeed” is true, and that is fine and dandy, but I wanted more.   Since it was New York City, I guess I was expecting a grittier take on the restaurant business.  Most of the stories seemed to center around 5 star restaurants or caterers who work for the rich and famous.  What about that Mom and Pop diner with the best meatloaf or the hot dog vendor who’s held down the same corner spot for 20 years?  I am always impressed by those who can land an executive chef job at a young age but what about the deli workers and diner servers who have worked hard at the same hole-in-the-wall for years?  Those were the stories I was looking for and, sadly, did not find very many in this collection.

Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy reading these quick 3-6 page stories from some of the top in the New York City food scene.  But after awhile it started to seem like the same story, just a different name and restaurant attached.  A person could easily pick 15 or so at random and have the full effect of the book.

Overall, Food and the City wasn’t bad and I would say give it a try.  For me, it just didn’t deliver the figurative punch I was expecting from a food expose.